What would suggest you're driving on ice?

What would suggest you're driving on ice?

Driving in icy conditions could be a stressful experience, especially if you’re not used to it or doing it for the first time. Having all the knowledge you need to make the experience smoother can make a big difference - both to your confidence and how safely you’d drive.

In this article, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about driving on icy roads.

What would suggest you're driving on ice?

So, what would suggest you're driving on ice? Less tyre noise. When driving on ice your tyres will make almost no sound.

What other things would suggest you're driving on an icy road?

Another thing that would suggest you’re driving on an icy road is the steering feeling light or unresponsive. You might also be able to see the ice if it glistens in sunlight or streetlamp light. Seeing cars ahead of you swerving around a spot on the road could also indicate there’s a patch of ice ahead.

What about black ice on the road?

Black ice is virtually impossible to see when you’re driving. The main way to tell if you’re driving on back ice is if the steering feels light.

Why is driving on ice potentially dangerous?

There’s potential for cars to skid and slide on an icy street, which could lead to car accidents. The key to not losing control of your vehicle is keeping wheel traction. Traction is the friction between a wheel and the road surface. We’ll dig into this more in the next section ‘how to drive on ice safely’.

How to drive on ice safely

Now you know what driving on ice would feel and look like, here’s a practical guide on driving on ice roads.

Before you start driving:

1. Check the weather before you go - will there be other weather conditions to consider, like fog, snow or rain?

2. Consider if you actually need to drive - is the journey essential? Or could you take another mode of transport?

3. Check your route - Google Maps is a great way to easily and quickly see if there’s a disruption to your route. Or while you’re getting ready to leave you could pop on the radio for updates.

4. Allow lots of extra time - you don’t want to feel like you’re rushing, as driving slower is an important part of driving safely.

5. Get your car prepped for emergencies - the highway code recommends taking an emergency kit with you. Having one in your car can be a pretty simple way to boost safety if an accident does happen. Depending on what you decide to get, emergency kits can be pretty affordable and easily ordered online. The highway code recommends the following:

  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Warm clothing
  • Boots
  • De-icer and ice scraper
  • Jump leads
  • Shovel
  • Warm drink and emergency food

6. Get your car ready to be driven - clear ice on your car, especially ice and snow from your windows and windscreen. It’s a good idea to do all the windows and make sure you get into all the corners - as having good visibility is very important. The same goes for having mirrors that are clear and windows that don’t fog up. It’s also wise to check your car’s in good working order, especially your breaks and lights.

For more info on getting your car ready, check out our blog: how to clean your car interior: A step-by-step guide.

When you’re driving:

1. Take care - be aware of your surroundings and other cars.

2. Keep space between you and other cars - particularly from the driver in front of you, as in icy conditions stopping distance will be a lot longer. You might be wondering, how much can stopping distance increase in ice? Stopping distance can be up to ten times greater than on dry roads!

Stopping distances are higher in icy conditions because of the lower traction levels - it takes longer for cars to stop when they break in comparison to when roads are clear. This means also there’s a shorter time gap between cars on an icy road. When you're driving on an icy road what distance you’ll need to leave will depend on how fast you’re driving. As a general rule the slower you’re driving the shorter the stopping distance.

3. Drive in a safe way:

  • Drive at a slow speed in a high gear - as this helps avoid wheelspin
  • Accelerate and brake gently
  • Slow down as you approach a bend - as it’s easier to lose control here
  • When on the turn of a bend, steer smoothly
  • Only accelerate when your wheels are straight (aka you’re not turning)
  • Avoid sudden movements
  • Before breaking evaluate the wheels grip on the road surface
  • And remember that if the steering starts to feel unresponsive it may indicate you’re driving on ice and your vehicle is losing its grip on the road

For more tips on how to drive safely check out these blogs:

What should you do if your car starts to skid?

Traditional advice is ‘if you start to slide, steer into the skid’. This means taking your foot off your gas or brake pedal and turning the wheels in the direction that the back of your car is skidding towards. And then as your car corrects, you might need to turn your wheel in the opposite direction to steer yourself back into your desired direction.

This is true for both oversteering and understeering. Oversteering is when the back tyres slide to the outside of the corner as you’re turning. And understeering is when the front tyres go towards the outside of the corner, so you feel like the car isn't turning enough.

A few final tips:

  • Less tyre noise suggests you’re driving on ice - so being aware of your car and its surroundings is super important when driving on icy roads
  • Preparation is important when setting up your car for travelling in potentially icy conditions
  • Being prepared can also include knowing the conditions of where you're driving - tips for driving safely in snow and on icy roads in Spain will differ slightly to tips for driving in the UK
  • Driving slower is important as ice on roads affects vehicle stopping distance
  • Making sure you know who your insurance provider is and the cover you have is important if you get into any difficulty on icy roads

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.